I have just read through Ofcom's ruling of the disgraceful Jeni Barnett LBC radio phone in show on MMR from January this year. The ruling is here (you need to scroll down to about 80% of the way down to read it).
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
It looks like this article by the always excellent Fraser Nelson on the Spectator blog this morning which accused Ed Balls of lying about the government planning to reduce national debt over the next few years has provoked a strong reaction from Mr Balls. He rang Fraser and "demanded" that he should take the article down!
Five years ago, you could lie like this on the radio and get away with it. Space is tight in newspapers, no one would devote hundreds of words and graphs - as we did - to expose a lie for what is. But the world has changed now. Blogging has brought new, hyper scrutiny. Blogs have infinite space, and people with endless energy, to expose political lying - no matter how small. Your claims can be instantly counter-checked, by anyone. If you stretch the truth, you can be exposed - by anyone. And if you plan to base a whole election campaign on a lie, as you apparently intend to do, then you're in for a rude awakening.
There has been talk in the last few days about outside jobs for MPs and how there is likely to be a clamp-down on them. I knew this would come; after the MPs expenses scandal it was a natural follow up.
- Rob Fenwick asks where all the MPs are when they are supposed to to be considering the Parliamentary Standards bill.
- Peter Black AM thinks that Gordon Brown is in denial about spending cuts.
- Donal Blaney says that given that a policy that he espoused 10 years ago and caused much opprobrium to be heaped upon him has now effectively been adopted by the Labour government that he is owed an apology.
- Douglas Carswell thinks that the PM's plans are "washed up and knackered". Plus ca change Douglas.
- And Paul on Liberal Burblings has an interesting insight into South Carolina politics.
Monday, 29 June 2009
As usual Andrew Rawnsley's piece in the Observer yesterday is good reading. It asks how public services can be made more accountable.
Another problem was that his (Blair's) idea of devolution was limited to handing down power to head teachers or hospital managers. Choice remains an empty word for many parents, pupils and patients. Then there was the huge obstacle of his chancellor. Gordon Brown constantly and often very effectively used his power at the Treasury to sabotage the reforms pursued by his next-door neighbour. It never struck me that the Mr Brown of those years really had a theory of his own about how to reform public services. He simply knew what he didn't like. What he didn't like was anything proposed by his rival. As a senior member of the current cabinet says: "Gordon wasn't necessarily against reform, he was just against any reform proposed by Tony. It was about authorship as much as anything." As a result, reform happened in a compromised and cramped way.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
There has been a lot of response to Charlotte Gore's post last week where she ruled herself out of standing as PPC for Halifax and gave a number of reasons why she felt she was not suitable to be one ever. Here is a flavour:
Amongst the many reasons why I would make a terrible PPC my personal favourite is this blog. Oh, it’ll take a day or so, but any campaign run by me could be derailed very quickly by finding a few choice quotes. Charlotte Gore wants to axe the welfare state! Charlotte Gore wants to cut spending! Charlotte Gore is pro Business and anti Union! Charlotte Gore wants to legalise drugs! Charlotte Gore thinks the BNP should be allowed on television! That’s just the start of it. There’s enough in this blog to kill any political career one hundred times over.
Dear Halifax,I’m looking for someone. It might be you. It might be someone you know. This is someone who’s sick of politicians and sick of mainstream politics. That’s most of us these days, and who could blame us?The person I’m looking for gets angry that the Government takes £10 billion pounds - more than twice as much as the once mighty HBOS ever earnt before tax - from cigarette duties alone. They get furious that £30 worth of petrol includes £20 of tax… and for what? This person feels ill when they discover the Government is now spending more than the entire British population takes home in wages, and they ask: For what? Where is the money going?This person looks around and sees a country brought to its knees, surviving only on loans from the rest of the world. This person knows that Halifax’s biggest employer is the council, and it makes this person angry to think that a town that was at the very heart of the industrial revolution could be sunk so low as to survive only on scraps from the Government table. This person thinks we should be better than this.But that’s not all. The person I’m looking for looks around and sees a country where trainspotters - of all people - are arrested under anti-terrorism laws and where it has become illegal to take photographs of the police. They see a Government determined to censor the internet, to monitor their emails and internet use. They see more and more rules and laws telling people how they should live and behave: Don’t eat. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t drive. Don’t say this. Don’t say that. Don’t vote for them. This person thinks Governments are supposed to be servants of the people, not the other way around.If you see this person, will you pass on a message? I’d be very grateful. The message is this: “You are missed. Please come back.”Yours Sincerely,Charlotte Gore
Charlotte. I feel very strongly that people like you should stand. The very fact that you have the guts and integrity to make your strongly held views known and back them up with robust argument and intellectual rigour makes you an ideal candidate to run for parliament and hold the government to account when you get there.I understand where you are coming from but I absolutely hate, repeat HATE the fact that many people by the time they get into parliament are anodyne speak your weight robots who speak an almost unintelligble language and appear to have no serious beliefs or underpinning to their views.So what if you have said a few things that would get the Daily Mail riled? They need to be taken on. It is only through people like you that it will ever happen.I understand that this is a difficult seat to fight and it would likely be for naught so I am not even necessarily saying you should go for this one but please, please do not rule yourself out from ever standing which is what you seem to be saying.
I think you are right and that some of the people on this thread are quite naive: you are totally unsuitable candidate material. If it is any consolation, I am too.While I think it would be a nod in the right direction, a change in the ‘boring’ electoral system ultimately won’t make either of us more electable either.I don’t actually think it is that bad that the people who tend to rise to the top of politics have relatively porous views. MPs have to be all-rounders. What you haven’t addressed is how frustrating your life would be battling away at your libertarian agenda in a Parliament where the vast majority of MPs were at best indifferent. How long would it be able to maintain your interest? It would certainly bore me. Why else do single issue political parties like UKIP adopt stance that they won’t actually do any work in the Parliament they are elected to, and just hoover up the expenses for five years?There are hundreds of different ways to make a difference in politics. Just concentrate on those.
Last Monday I attended the "Commentariat vs Bloggertariat" event organised by Editorial Intelligence as I blogged about here. during the event, Martin Bright of The Spectator claimed that he had never read a "classic" blog post. I suggested that he might not have been looking in the right places and I promised that I would send him some. I then created a thread where I asked for suggestions. Some of you have responded to this and I have also received some suggestions in private. I have a couple of my own too.
- El nominated this excellent post from Lib Dem activist Costigan Quist on Himmelgarten Cafe which makes a very strong point about the fickle and contradictory nature of public opinion when it comes to politicians and democracy. I would argue that this could easily be published as a comment piece in a national newspaper and is up to the standards of some of our best columnists.
- Jennie Rigg pointed out that blogs do not need to ape newspaper columns and that this post by her friend Stacey is a classic blog post because it succinctly communicates important information in an easily accessible way.
- Prolific blogger Matt Wardman of The Wardman Wire nominated his "David Aaronovitch" simulator from last year and also this very detailed and multi-faceted piece of campaigning analysis from December last year called "Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments".
- Matt also nominated this perfect example of immediate and on the spot citizen journalism from Nosemonkey's EUtopia which is a contemporaneous blog post updated in real time during the events of 7th July 2005.
- manc_ill_kid has nominated this contribution from The Filthy Smoker on Devil's Kitchen blog entitled "Fake Charities". This is a strongly worded critique of how certain charities are largely or exclusively funded by the government and yet present themselves as grassroots organisations. There is a particular focus on anti-smoking charities. Regardless of your views on this it seems to be a very well researched and argued piece with lots of sourced quotes.
- Julian H has nominated what he describes as a sweary rant entitled "Lansbury again, and the fallacy of Wenger 'ruining English talent'".
- Oranjepan from Reading List has nominated this little gem called "The Truth Is Out There" which juxtaposes two "unrelated" stories from his locale.
- Tory Outcast nominated his own summary of the cabinet resignations and government disarray earlier this month entitled "Can't keep up".
- John Richardson via email nominated this post which he describes as "Martin Stabe's blog on Terence Blacker's criticism of the New York Times publishing a piece by blogger Eugene Volokh in 2004 is a classic, and relevant to the current debate.".
- Bill Quango MP has nominated his "Having an old friend for dinner" post from last June which imagines a conversation between Gordon Brown and Brendan Barber in the style of The Godfather.
- Michael Fowke has nominated this post entitled "The Financial Times: a vision" from his "Money is the Way" blog. It is a very long stream of consciousness of the kind that I suspect would never be published in a newspaper or magazine but that is one of the big advantages of blogging that it allows people to express themselves in an unconstrained way like this.
- I would like to nominate a pair of blog posts from Costigan Quist (again!) and another Lib Dem activist Charlotte Gore. They are two of the best Lib Dem bloggers in my opinion and in this exchange from just a few days ago Charlotte describes how she thinks she is not suitable to put herself forward as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and Costigan responds with his view of how democracy is broken if people of the calibre of Charlotte feel they cannot contribute.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
According to BBC News and various other sources Michael Jackson died earlier today of a heart attack.
It seems like a very sad end to the life of an amazingly talented man. He was only 50 years old.
I will always have fond memories of his earlier music; I grew up during the Thriller and Bad eras and they were both fantastic albums.
Editorial Intelligence have just released the video for the "Commentariat vs Bloggertariat" event that I attended on Monday and that I blogged about here.
Paul Waugh has pointed out that my local MP Andrew MacKay is not paying back anything following the release of the "payback" list of Conservative MPs today.
The explanation that his case is to be considered by the Legg review is singularly misleading because EVERY MP will have their cases considered by the independent regulator.The fact is that the Tories' own scrutiny panel has decided not to take any action. If the Legg review concludes that Mr MacKay has not broken any Commons rules because his claims were signed off (amazingly) by officials, then he may escape paying anything at all.Yet the whole point of the scrutiny panel was to get money back from those MPs whose conduct may not have broken the rules but which failed the famous "smell test" set by Cameron. If it looked dodgy to the public, then cash should be paid back, whether it is Steen's gardening or Vigger's duck house.Tory aides say that MacKay is not being let off the hook and his case is so serious and complicated that it was felt best to leave it to Legg. But if he fails to payback the money he wrongly claimed from the taxpayer, it will leave Cameron wide open to the accusation that he feels his former adviser has suffered enough.
The good people of Liberal Democrat Voice have very kindly posted my synopsis of last night's Guildford Lib Dems Summer Supper where the guest of honour was Vince Cable here.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
I seem to be making a habit these days of calling into Iain Dale's internet radio show. I was at it again this week.
Well that was the first PMQs of John Bercow's time as speaker. I thought he did OK. Here are my highlights:
- He got in early by cutting short a planted question stating "We got the jist of it!"
- When there was continual barracking during the Cameron/Brown exchanges he interrupted and insisted that the public do not like it "and I do not like it!". Things were a bit quieter after this.
- He chided Michael Fabricant the Tory MP saying that he must calm himself "It's not good for your health!".
- The best bit for me was a slap down to another Labour back-bencher who started trying to tack on slating of opposition policies to his question. Bercow interrupted and said that the PM need not concern himself with opposition policies. If Bercow sticks to this then it could eventually make life difficult for the PM as that's half his question answering strategy out of the window.
- He made a brief statement at the end firstly insisting that ministers must make statements initially to the house not the media, must keep questions and answers relatively short and that those speaking must be able to be heard.
I have really been trying not to post about MPs expenses any more but I could not let this one pass by.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
At the "Commentariat vs Bloggertariat" event last night that I have already blogged about, Martin Bright of the Spectator said that he has not yet come across what he would describe as a "classic" blog post.
- There were screens all around the room that were displaying tweets containing the hashtag for the event #eiblogger streamed directly from Twitter which cycled around and about 5 minutes after D. Aaronovitch's comments about being called a c**t there was a tweet scrolling past several times that said "But David Aaronovitch IS a c**t"! This actually went some way to proving his point and Martin Bright commented on this afterwards.
- Mick Fealty mentioned that Guido is actually making very good money from his blogging. David Aaronovitch said he was pleased to hear that because his lawyer had previously claimed the opposite and that therefore there was no point in suing Guido. Now he said he would need to rethink this. Mick cursed himself at this point.
Monday, 22 June 2009
So John Bercow is now the Speaker of the House of Commons. I am still unsure whether they have made the right choice but he could do a few things in his early days to help answer that question.
There are a number of other bloggers (e.g. Bernard Salmon, Stephen Glenn and Caron Lindsay as well as others on this Lib Dem Voice thread) who have pointed out that Margaret Beckett, were she to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons today would be the worst of all worlds. She is an establishment figure who is far too closely associated with the government and would do nowhere near enough to refom parliament.
MPs today have a once in a political generation to do the right thing and elect somebody who will truly reform the House. Margaret Beckett is not that person and if they choose her, they will be sending a very clear signal to the electorate that despite all the words about "change" and "reform", they intend to do diddly squat.
I am willing to go with Douglas Carswell's choice of Richard Shepherd as a reforming Speaker although I fear he will not make it through the rounds.
Firstly, his own expense claims have been very modest. Secondly, he campaigned for Freedom of Information law years before it became fashionable. Together that gives him the moral authority to force transparency on an unwilling tribe in SW1.Better than anyone else I’ve met in four years in the Commons, Richard understands that sovereignty of Parliament is shorthand for sovereignty of the people.Too many in Westminster see the Speaker’s contest through the prism of self-interest. They seem to want to elect a shop steward for politicians, rather than a Speaker able to restore public faith in the political process.Richard grasps that change must also mean making those we elect effective at holding government to account. Parliament needs back its purpose. He’s ideas on how it is to be done.Speaker Shepherd would be no apologist for indolent politicians blinded by a sense of entitlement – but he would make them answer properly to you.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
I had an interesting phone call from an old friend this week. He isn't really very interested in politics but he is university educated and follows the news. He has been following my blog and he suggested something that would really help educate people like him about electoral reform.
There have been a number of occasions recently when I have heard cabinet ministers on TV and/or radio making complete idiots of themselves.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
I have just started listening to the Politalks podcasts from The Wardman Wire. I am always on the lookout for good political podcasts and the two I have listened to so far are of a good standard. They are interviews with a UKIP candidate and Tom Harris MP. The interviewer (from Charon QC, the UK law blog) is focused and gives the interviewee proper time to explore issues which is something I often find is lacking in the mainstream media.
Friday, 19 June 2009
Alex Singleton on the Telegraph Three Line Whip blog has a short piece today which reveals that a Downing Street staff member has said that Gordon Brown was briefed by Damian McBride just before going onto the Andrew Marr show on 31st May less than 3 weeks ago and well after he was sacked due to Smeargate.
Paul Waugh has highlighted something interesting. Apparently there has been an off the record briefing by "allies of the Foreign Secretary" in The Independent which rubbish Ed Balls in relation to his comments about the Iraq inquiry.
abandon unattributable briefings, saying all politicians’ spokesmen should be named, or not quoted by media outlets. "The gotcha culture of politics is not in anyone’s interests"
Thursday, 18 June 2009
I have been busy working today so have not have much of a chance to look at the expenses released today. However I have read a number of blog posts where others have posted pictures of them and the main thing I have noticed is just how much has been blacked out. In some cases it is virtually the whole receipt.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Having seen and read the reports and highlights from today's PMQs and read a fair few blog posts about it, I just wonder what Gordon Brown think he sounds like when he relentlessly drivels on about Tory cuts vs Labour investment insisting that Labour will increase spending in real terms in the next few years.
It is so manifestly untrue that Tom Bradby ITV's political editor as good as said so on the report tonight. I am sure a few years ago that political editors did not feel that they could basically state that the Prime Minister of the day was a liar but it seems par for the course these days because it is true.
This recent Politics Home opinion poll shows that Labour is the least believed of the 3 major parties on spending on frankly I am not surprised.
I just wonder what he thinks he sounds like because to me it seems mendacious and politically tone deaf.
Costigan Quist has an interesting post about the Digital Britain report from yesterday.
- Sunder Katwala has a one stop shop for blog comment about the shameful outing of Orwell prize winning blogger Night Jack
- But Alix Mortimer deserves special singling out for an excellent post on this subject which declares it a sad day for investigative journalism
- Lib Dem in Hackney advocates tactical play to try and ensure we get as close to hung parliament as possible. That could be a very dangerous game...
- Tom Harris explains a temporary shift in his support for John Bercow to allow Parmjit Dhanda to address the house
- And Dizzy has an interesting post about how a teenager has found a way to cause plastic bags to decompose in a matter of months
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
There are reports that Damian McBride is back working for Gordon Brown only a couple of months after he was forced to resign in disgrace following the Smeargate scandal.
I have wondered for a long time how very different history may have played out had Gordon Brown have stood against Tony Blair for the leadership of the Labour Party in 1994. Given how hugely things could have differed this might seem like a bit of an invidious task but I will have a stab at what I think some of the most important consequences might have been.
- Paul Canning on The Wardman Wire has raw video linked from yesterday's Tehran rally and points out how vital Twitter has been in getting information out
- Paul Waugh has an excellent summary of the mess Ed Balls has managed to get himself into
- Mark Wadsworth questions whether the car scrappage scheme will have much or any effect at all in the end
- Prof. Paul Reynolds admires Gordon Brown's ability to utter "brazen untruths". I can't say admiration is my first response...
- And Heresy Corner thinks Brown's decision to hold the Iraq inquiry in secret is misjudged
Monday, 15 June 2009
I have been an advocate of a more progressive approach to drug policy in this country for a long time. The current laws just aren't working and the fact that there are about 100,000% more heroin users now than in 1971 when the current drug laws came into effect is but one of a myriad of facts that prove this.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
- Costigan Quist writing on LDV has an excellent post advising on the 4 steps that the Lib Dems need to follow to replace Labour
- Rene Kinzett thinks Ken Clarke was speaking sense today about the Lisbon Treaty
- Tim Worstall answers the question "Can anyone seriously maintain that stopping mass murder is less important than violating that legal principle?" definitively
- Peter Black is hopeful that Alan Johnson will ditch ID cards
- And on a sombre note, Cicero thinks that people who legitimately win elections by a huge margin do not normally need to arrest their opponents
During the BBC Question Time Live Chat on here on Thursday, I had a £10 bet with fellow blogger Constantly Furious (who always seems to be quite irked about something) that Gordon Brown will not be PM by the end of the year. I feel that the only reason he survived this time round is because of the fear that a General Election would have to be called in short order. However come the Autumn I reckon that a new PM could credibly announce upon accession that the General Election would be held in early spring which is almost when it would have to be held anyway, i.e. Labour would have nothing to lose and perhaps much to gain by plunging in the knife at that point.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
- Letters From a Tory asks if Hazel Blears has lost her appetite
- Leo Watkins writing on LDV has a very well considered post about political reform
- Nich Starling has evidence that the Conservatives are being "flexible" about the size of their bars in Norwich North by-election leaflet bar-chart
- Mike Smithson thinks that John Bercow could be a formidable Speaker. And thinks that is why he won't win.
- And Ben Goldacre again proves why I love him so much (platonically of course) with an excellent post about how drugs policy is almost never based on the evidence.
I did a big shop in our local Tesco yesterday. It had been a little while since I had gone in there for anything more than a pack of yoghurts so I had expected it would take maybe 45 minutes to go around and get all the fruit, veg, meat and other things that I needed. However in the end it actually took almost an hour and a half.